The Nina Valley Restoration Group is 10 years old this season.
In those 10 years, the Years 7 to 13 students from Hurunui College who make up the group have learnt an array of kiwi-handling skills.
The students not only know how to hold kiwi correctly and safely, they have taken part in translocation projects, working alongside Department of Conservation (DOC) rangers to capture raroa (great spotted kiwi) in Arthurs Pass for release in the Nina Valley, in Lake Sumner Forest Park.
Students even made some of the travel boxes for the kiwi.
Hurunui College’s head of science, Tim Kelly, who has managed the group since its beginning, says DOC has been good about the students being hands on.
“They have trained the kids to use the telemetry gear to track kiwi; they show them how to change transmitters and how to monitor the welfare of the kiwi.”
Hurunui College, in Hawarden, caters for pupils aged 5 to 18.
However, students need to be in Year 7 before they can attend the popular away-weekends to Nina Valley without a parent. “It’s mainly the older students,” Tim says. “Sometimes new or junior members will come with us as far as the hut, then the more experienced students carry on up to check the traplines. Some kids are hanging out to reach Year 7 so they can come with us.”
Weekend trips are held every four weeks or so to check the school’s 20km network of traplines, although the group is about to take a two-month winter break.
The work is extra-curricular, but related activities are regularly incorporated into class work. Some students visit Lincoln University to learn how to analyse the stomach contents of stoats they have trapped.
“We’re always looking for research opportunities to test things for people,” Tim says, “like carrying out lure tests or trialling DOC-approved traps. We’re also keen to incorporate technologies into what we do – new trapping technology and new telemetry.”
The school’s project investigating electronic possum lures is one example of investigating new technologies. It involves the students designing and trialling electronic lures.
Tim believes in plenty of variety to motivate his students.
“We’ve tried a lot of different things, so it’s not just all donkey work.”
Hurunui College students are also becoming more involved in environmentalism and sustainability.
“They’ve been working with Environment Canterbury (ECan) making submissions on public policy and climate change. ECan has a strong policy of encouraging youth involvement.”
Another recent partnership is with the Kea Conservation Trust.
“The Kea Conservation Trust has banded four kea in the Nina Valley and fitted them with transmitters and we’ve just started working with them to monitor those kea,” Tim says.
“We may be working in other valleys as well as Nina. We also have whio (blue ducks) in the Nina Valley and we carry out river surveys and monitor the whio.”